Yola and Jimeta are the twin metros that form the state capital of northeastern Nigeria’s Adamawa State. They are tense places of high temperatures, military checkpoints and curfew.
It was late at night on June 4 when shoppers were milling around a small market opposite the Jimeta Modern Market. It was just after 7:30PM, and the walled, open-air market was closing for the day. Suddenly, a fight broke out. When customers and traders drew nearer to take a look, two bombs went off killing 37 people. The fight was staged by a suicide bomber.
“There were body parts lying all over the stalls, and parts of the street,” says Shareef Al Hasan, a reporter with TV Gotel who arrived minutes after the blast.
For many of the survivors, the unthinkable had happened; Boko Haram had struck at the heart of the Adamawa State capital.
The area has been relatively peaceful for more than a year, and seen thousands of refugees from Mubi, Madagali, Michika swell homes and camps. Some families sheltered up to 100 relatives, friends and strangers in their homes. They were fed by the people of Yola and Jimeta. The total number of displaced in Yola alone is estimated at 15,000.
In 2011 and 2012, attacks by Boko Haram in the town were common with gunmen shooting civilians from the back of motorcycles. The state government has since banned the okada, a two-wheeled transport popular in Nigeria.
Scores of people came to gawk at the scene, others fled. By 8PM, news of the bomb blast spread and panic gripped the city.
By the next morning, the area was cordoned off. I arrived at around 8:30AM to see for myself the destruction of the night before. The bodies were gone and the survivors taken to hospitals where they filled the wards. The dismembered head of the suicide bomber lay on the asphalt in a cardboard box.
The traditional leader, Barkindo Aliyu Mustapha, was among the first on the scene. He looked distressed, telling people to keep praying for peace and to be security conscious. The next to arrive was the commissioner of police in Adamawa State, Gabriel Adaji, with a call for information.
“Even if your suspicions are later proved baseless, we will thoroughly investigate every complaint,” he says.
The newly-elected governor, Jibrilla Bindo, announced a security cluster meeting with state security chiefs.
The incident comes at a time when pressure is mounting on President Muhammadu Buhari to fulfill a campaign promise of ridding Nigeria of insurgency. He announced the relocation of Nigeria’s military command center to Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State.
The move to bring troops closerwas applauded by Nigerians. For the residents of Yola and Jimeta, it cannot come soon enough.